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RENA update from Maritime NZ (185)

Thursday, 22 December 2011 11:30 a.m.

Salvage and container recovery operations on Rena will continue throughout the Christmas and New Year break, while oil spill response teams will remain ready to respond should more oil come ashore during the holidays, says Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

MNZ National On Scene Commander, Rob Service, said while oil spill response activity would be scaled back during the Christmas/New Year period to give teams a well-deserved break, they remained on call and ready to respond should more oil from Rena hit local beaches.

Mr Service said the incident command centre would also continue to run over the Christmas break, but the staffing would be reduced to a core team.

This team would continue to monitor the movement of the oil sheen around Rena and continue planning for potential future releases of oil.

Response personnel in Tauranga would remain ready to respond to public reports of oil on the beaches, and the wider response team would be on-call and ready to return to Tauranga in the event of another large spill from Rena.

Salvors and staff from container retrieval company Braemar Howells would also continue to work through the holidays on removing and processing containers taken from the Rena.

"While it is really pleasing to see containers coming off Rena and the situation remaining relatively stable, we must remain vigilant," Mr Service said.

"We know there is still oil on the wreck that the salvage team can't reach. We are ready to launch another large scale-response if and when that oil is released."

Mr Service also thanked everyone who had assisted with the Rena oil spill response as the year wound to a close.

Mr Service was one of the first oil spill responders to reach Tauranga, on 5 October, hours after Rena ran aground and was responsible for declaring the event a Tier 3, or national level, oil spill response. Since that day, hundreds of people from throughout the country and the rest of the world have dedicated their time and energy to responding toNew Zealand's worst maritime environmental emergency.

"Everyone who has been here - whether they've been organising the response from within the incident command centre, out on the beach cleaning up oil, working on board the Rena, or at the wildlife facility caring for birds, has put in 150 percent and, for that, we at MNZ are hugely grateful," Mr Service said.

"It's been a very intense 11 weeks and people have put in some incredibly long hours and shown an outstanding commitment to restoring and protecting the Bay of Plenty environment.

"We wish everyone who has worked alongside us - whether they are central or local government personnel, volunteers or our colleagues from overseas - a very happy Christmas and a restful break."

Salvage

  • Container removal operations continued this week, with a total of 252 containers now taken off Rena by Svitzer salvors. Rena originally had 1368 containers on board.
  • No container operations were conducted yesterday due to repositioning of the crane barge Smit Borneo to the starboard side of the Rena to facilitate container removal operations. Salvage teams hope to make the most of good weather forecast for the next few days.
  • A technical issue with the crane prevented container removal operations at the start of the week, but this was remedied by Svitzer engineers.
  • The condition of the wreck continues to deteriorate. Dive inspections have confirmed damage next to the #3 hold has worsened. They have also confirmed buckling near the #6 starboard hold is also continuing to develop. This is further evidence of the gradual structural failure of the ship. Svitzer will continue to closely monitor this with electronic sensors and dive inspections.
  • Salvors have completed the fitting of 6 patches to increase buoyancy of the wreck.
  • The Svitzer salvage teams will continue work as normal over the Christmas period.

Container recovery

  • Container recovery operations are continuing, with a beach crew at Sutherland St (Mount, Ōmanu area) since 6.30am today where container debris has been found.
  • Fifteen refrigerated containers are being processed on shore.
  • Sonar operations around Mōtītī Island have found several targets, one of which is definitely a container. A team including divers will be at White Island tomorrow where debris has been found at South Rock.
  • Braemar Howells container recovery teams will continue work as normal over the Christmas period.
  • Any sightings of containers or container debris should be reported to 0800 OIL SPILL.

Oil spill response

  • Observation flights have continued to monitor the sheen emanating from Rena. This morning's flight spotted patches of light sheen moving northwest, then to the southwest with the wind change. Patches of rainbow metallic sheen are visible further out from the vessel.
  • An oil sheen noted earlier in the week west of Mōtītī was not visible when the aerial observation team checked on it yesterday.
  • Beach clean-up contractors will be stood down for a break over the Christmas period. However, rapid response teams remain on standby in case of reports of oil from the public over the holiday period.
  • Today is the last day for contractors working before the Christmas break. Work at Mauāo is to be finished unless it is too wet.
  • Pāpāmoa beaches will be checked and if clear, public access will be opened in areas that have been closed for the past couple of months.
  • A team is returning from Mōtītī and afternoon work will be done at Kulim Park, but volunteers may be called upon to help complete work on the riprap wall which has been dismantled to be cleaned.
  • All areas will be tidied up so they can be used over the next 10-12 days.
  • A core team at the incident command centre will work through the Christmas period while the wider response team remains on standby to respond if needed.
  • Stockpiles of equipment, including 700 pairs of overalls stored at Mōtītī Island, and other response equipment is gear is being stored at local marae and with Fulton Hogan contractors. Emergency packs are also being stored at the ICC in Tauranga.

Wildlife

  • Wildlife releases have continued this week, with 25 little blue penguins released today at Motiti Island.
  • This leaves 15 penguins and one dotterel still in care at Te Maunga oiled wildlife facility. These animals will be taken to Massey University for care during the Christmas break.
  • Wildlife field operations will continue around Mt. Maunganui and Leisure Island over the holiday break. A team will be at Mōtītī until Saturday doing both night and day operations, but will then be stood down and will return early in the New Year.
  • The wildlife team will be scaling back its presence over the Christmas period, but staff at the ICC and facilities at Te Maunga remain on standby to respond to any fresh reports of oiled wildlife.
Smit Borneo in action (1) 9 December 2011